Read Her Big City Neighbor

Read Her Big City Neighbor (Cider Bar Sisters, #1) by Jackie Lau

When small-town engineer Amy Sharpe inherits a house in Toronto, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity to start over and go back to school. Away from the family that takes her for granted, away from the ex who expected so much and gave little in return.

The new Amy enjoys wandering around the city and frequenting bubble tea shops, German beer halls, dim sum restaurants, and coffee bars serving Japanese pastries. She has a roommate with the same name as her favorite fictional character, and a group of friends who meet at a cider bar every couple of weeks.

The new Amy is also in lust with her brooding, tattooed next-door neighbor, Victor Choi, who is far from friendly but looks really hot cutting the grass without a shirt. Too bad the grass doesn’t grow faster.

As she starts telling him about her daily adventures—and as a little kissing in the garden becomes a regular activity—Amy begins to feel more than lust. But she fears she’s falling into her old patterns in relationships and refuses to let herself be underappreciated again.

Is Victor really more than a hot fling? And what’s he hiding behind that grumpy exterior?

Light low-conflict read with adults acting like adults and having conversations they don’t want to have. Lots of food (honestly too much). I liked their relationships with their families. I didn’t 100% buy their connection, it seemed to start too quickly. Something about the lack of intense emotions made it feel like the volume was kinda dialed down. Somewhat unbelievable this woman was in a graduate program with the amount of time and money she had, and lack of stress 😂

Personal Growth Relationships

Read Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

Read Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

An introvert spends a year trying to live like an extrovert with hilarious results and advice for readers along the way.

This was entertaining — more memoir than serious non-fiction. Biggest takeaway was to put yourself out there and be vulnerable.

Encapsulated in this quote: “That’s the truth of the world… Nobody waves — but everybody waves back.” – Nick Epley, a researcher she talked to

Being charismatic:

  • Hold eye contact while shaking hands
  • Ask a genuine open ended question
  • Ask how they feel about it
  • Validate their feelings

Events for networking:

  • Go to events that actually sound fun
  • Stay at least an hour
  • Arrive on time
  • Talk to 3 people
  • Try to really connect with 1

“Some women don’t need so much help with public speaking as with the self-doubt and self-loathing that hold them back from getting involved in it.” – Viv Groskop, How to Own the Room


Read Iron Widow

Read Iron Widow

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

This main character was intense and unpredictable, which made for exciting reading. Didn’t bother me that it was YA, though that did mean there “had” to be a love triangle… which she subverted beautifully. Cliffhanger ending. Will be interested to see where this goes in the next couple books (I assume it’ll be a trilogy).

Beautiful cover 😍


Read The Black Tides of Heaven

Read The Black Tides of Heaven

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

Got stuck at 30% for a bit but when I picked it back up I read the rest at once. Interesting world building. I have the feeling there are layers I’m missing with the twins. Mokoya I didn’t especially like, I doubt I’ll read her novella. The love interests don’t get much time on page but that’s fine. Novella length worked well. I’ll probably try the sequel.

Comics Fantasy

Read Shadow Life

Read Shadow Life

When Kumiko’s well-meaning adult daughters place her in an assisted living home, the seventy-six-year-old widow gives it a try, but it’s not where she wants to be. She goes on the lam and finds a cozy bachelor apartment, keeping the location secret even while communicating online with her eldest daughter. Kumiko revels in the small, daily pleasures: decorating as she pleases, eating what she wants, and swimming in the community pool. But something has followed her from her former residence—Death’s shadow.

Kumiko’s sweet life is shattered when Death’s shadow swoops in to collect her. With her quick mind and sense of humor, Kumiko, with the help of friends new and old, is prepared for the fight of her life. But how long can an old woman thwart fate?

Not totally what I expected, especially the ending was a surprise.

Shadow Life works as a title on multiple levels — both Death’s Shadow, but also that at the beginning she’s withdrawn from all her friends and family and is living a shadow of her life, and succeeds in her quest when she rebuilds her connections.

Interesting presentation of an old woman as the heroine. She keeps pissing her pants accidentally ☹ She deals with her physical limitations throughout, but refuses to let her intellect be constrained by them, asserting her independence and self-determination.

Her children are obnoxious and controlling, and the way they’re drawn makes them look like they’re about 20, when they’ve got to be in their thirties at least given she’s supposed to be in her late seventies.

Fantasy Romance

Re-read Visions of Heat

Read Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling, #2) by Nalini Singh

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous—aching need . . . exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take the form of either man or jaguar, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes.

They must keep her silenced—and keep her from Vaughn.

This wasn’t a favorite the first time I read it and I don’t think I’ve reread it before. Don’t think I’ll reread it again – thought I’d give it another shot since I was in the mood for a Nalini Singh and this was one of the few currently available at the library. This feels a little outdated in the way the hero interacts with the heroine – she tells him to stop touching her because she can’t handle it and he’s like yeah you can 😒 That’s portrayed as helping her break through her barriers… but doesn’t exactly read as enthusiastic consent :/

I forgot that the first couple books were centered on murder mysteries, it’s not my preference to have serial killers in my romance books. Also not huge on foresight, which is integral to this story. I was impressed to see how many story elements, future characters, and worldbuilding elements she sets up.

The ending of this felt like it peaked too early, the last fifteen percent dragged. I also didn’t like the reveal of the mating bond which is so prominent and important in other books, but here is unremarked until another character asks about it.

Romance Science Fiction

Re-read Ocean Light

Read Ocean Light (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #2; Psy-Changeling, #17) by Nalini Singh

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there’s a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment—taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he’s at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling.

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won’t hide the facts of Bo’s condition from him or herself. She’s suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine . . .

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back—even if it means striking a devil’s bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy.

A lot of this book is about how people respond to trauma. The heroine retreats to safety. The hero launches a movement to empower and protect others like him. The villain seeks to hurt those who didn’t protect him.

The hurt and the fear make this a more fraught read than others in the series. The heroine’s fear is so entrenched and strong it seems hard at times to imagine her finding a way to overcome it.


Read The Shaadi Set-Up

Read The Shaadi Set-Up

High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency.

While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all….

Overall enjoyed this story. Some quibbles…

I wish the initial boyfriend has been just a personality mismatch and not simply a loser who no one should date — because it is a bit of a sell that the main character cares enough about this guy to pull the website stunt. The website stunt is also pretty peripheral to the plot, and could have easily been taken out, perhaps to give more focus to the main story? Honestly the whole first boyfriend could have been left out and the parent set-up would still have worked and been the main spark for the whole book.

I was pretty underwhelmed by the reveal at the end about why they’d split up originally. I wanted it to be more than it was.

Fantasy Romance

Read Declaration of Courtship

Read Declaration of Courtship (Psy-Changeling, #9.5)

A dominant changeling wolf, SnowDancer lieutenant Cooper is not known for his patience. But when it comes to courting the shy, sexy woman he wants in his life and in his bed, he’ll have to use every ounce of control in his body to keep both man and wolf in check . . . at least until he convinces Grace he only bites a little.

One of the most submissive wolves in the SnowDancer pack, Grace knows nothing can come of her sensual fascination with big, bad, beautiful Cooper. He might possess her over and over in erotic dreams that leave her aching for the rough heat of his touch, but she knows that in reality, he is far too dangerous for her to handle. Then Cooper decides to change all the rules . . .

Was in the mood for a comfort read.


Read The Heart Principle

Read The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out f…

Forcing this story to serve as a romance was a disservice to the story and characters. I think it should have been written solely from Anna’s perspective and marketed more as chick lit. It would have allowed for the end of the book to be fleshed out, and more time given to Anna’s self growth and recovery. By shoehorning this complex and painful story into romance structure, it made a failed romance novel and failed literary novel because the romance was given short shrift, Quan didn’t get enough development, and Anna’s true problems weren’t confronted on page: her abusive family, harmful people pleasing, obsessive perfectionism, and self judgment.

It was clearly a deeply personal and hard story to tell. I wish the publisher had let the author write this outside of her usual genre and keep it separate from the main series. There was more I wanted from Anna’s story, so much resolution needed that became a brief outline — honestly, I suspect they were too close to the author to write as she did her experience caretaking.

As a romance, I wasn’t convinced their relationship was deep or strong enough yet to last Anna’s ordeal with her family. It pained me to see her so passive for so long, to sacrifice her agency for so much of the book and do harm to others to protect herself from the pain of responsibility for saying no, putting her own need to be liked and to do what others want above those she loves, to oblige only her abusers and let those who treat her well suffer from her obeisance. I also was unsatisfied with her capitulation at the end, that her reconciliation was neither earned nor sufficient to the harm she did.